Ann Dingli 27.5.2017
Emergency preventative medication for HIV is currently available in Malta... but costs €600. Party leaders recently pledged to work towards the removal of its unaffordable price tag, and have each signed an agreement to introduce free-of-charge PEP in Malta if their party is elected.
Post Exposure Prophylaxis, known as PEP is a drug that can be taken after a person is potentially exposed HIV to prevent them from becoming infected. A recent LGBTIQ debate with Malta's main political party representatives discussed the issue of its high price, and the parties' commitment towards bettering Malta's HIV medical treatment in general.
A report compiled by the Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC) describes the current HIV situation in Malta as "critical", claiming that as things stand, 671 new HIV cases could develop by 2021.
If the political parties deliver on their agreement to offer PEP medication for free, then people at risk would be less impeded to act swiftly after the threat of exposure. PEP medication should be used strictly in emergency situations and needs to be started within 72 hours after exposure.
Russell Sammut from ARC questioned party representatives at the LGBTIQ debate on their commitment to removing the high price tag on PEP, as well as on the investment in other HIV healthcare and treatment. Sammut urged leaders to follow through on this pledge to facilitate readily available prevention medication that could save the country a bunch of money spent on treatment for actual HIV care once it is contracted.
Nationalist Party (PN) leader Simon Busuttil said that if PN are elected it would be their aim to upgrade HIV treatment in Malta. Busuttil stressed his belief that all HIV medication should be free for everyone. Minister for Civil Liberties Helena Dalli added that the medication in question is actually mentioned in the Labour Party (PL) electoral manifesto, and that one of their focuses will be to make sure that the adequate medicines remain in stock on the island.
A snapshot of HIV in Malta*
In 2015 there were 61 known cases of HIV in Malta
HIV cases have increased by 20% per year since 2009
57% of that yearly increase is found within the 'Men having Sex with Men' (MSM) group
In 2014 the rate of new HIV cases in Malta was 11% higher than the UK
With the current medical treatment available Malta will have >2000 HIV cases by 2021
That will mean €271m spent on lifetime treatment from new infections
*All data has been provided by ARC Malta.
Click to read the full signed agreement covering Equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people in the 2017 – 2022 legislative period.
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